Hope. It is a theme that I hear increasingly discussed.
I was there for part of it. I was glad I was because I got to hear students from Virginia Tech who are involved with the Presbyterian Campus Ministry and the Blacksburg Presbyterian Church speak about the tragedy of the shootings last April.
It was a story that was told with great finesse and pathos. It was as much the story of one freshman woman - Heidi Miller - who was shot and the people who are her friends at VirginiatTech and how they handled the tragedy. She tells of how hope mattered as she faced her assailant.
“I learned that lesson for the first time in those first few moments I switched from being student at my desk to a student lying on the floor playing dead wondering whether I would ever make it out of that room in Norris Hall alive. Because that morning, as the smell of gun residue and blood penetrated my nostrils and blood seeped through my jeans and three bullets entered into my body, hope seemed far away — because he left the room, but came back in, he would run out of bullets, but then he would reload.”
… “Evil was standing there embodied in this person standing four feet away from me, then it came -- hope found its way into that room.” It first appeared when she began to move her left foot. “I realized that I wasn’t paralyzed and that my nerves still reached my foot despite the three bullets that had just entered my left side.”
Here's what I thought as I listened to their presentation.
1. Hope comes in human form. The stronger our care for one another is, the greater sense of God's care for us, and from that comes hope.
As Matt (Drumheller) stood around in the nearby hospital “waiting and waiting,” there came on a gurney “my friend Heidi (Miller), laying in a dazed, post-surgery state. She smiled at me.” It was like “…God was standing right there beside me saying, ‘She’s alive.’” Drumheller told the crowd, “God was right there beside me, beside all of us.”
2. Hope is a product of persistent resilience. What does this mean? We never give up. We never believe that all hope is lost. We continue to work and to strive for a better future. Even at the darkest moments we believe that God is there. I see this in these students. I see it in other people who have persisted in the face of disease, tragedy, disappointment, and all sorts of crisis in their lives.
From Heidi Miller:
During and following a hospital stay, the support of family and friends continued to renew her hope, along with the hard work of physical therapy. “ …and my faith was there to remind me that somehow this was all going to find a way to work out, and inside myself I found a way to hang onto the person I was before but also make room for this new facet of my life.” ...
This past fall semester was an “emotional mountain” for her to climb, she told her peers. “There were times when things got hard, really hard, but I had to keep pushing along. … Hope was hard to find at the times when I found myself facing rock bottom.”
3. Hope is a belief that whatever the story is today, it is not the whole story. And much of the rest of the story is determined by our own attitudes, decisions and actions.
Again from Heidi:
Looking back on the whole experience she reflected, “That morning of April 16th in my French classroom in Norris Hall I saw evil in its purest form. I faced someone who had no hope at all.” She has not tried to psychoanalyze the killer. But, “the only way I can conceptualize it in my head [how] this happened is that he had no hope, no hope at all, and that is where his hopeless path led him.” This is as close as she has come to an answer, she says, “and I’ve come to terms with that.”
Heidi closed her remarks by quoting from her first post-incident journal entry, 12 days after the shooting: I never thought that this journal would go from being about the frivolous trivial things that occurred during my super awkward freshman year to a journal chronicling my life as I recover from the physical and emotional trauma of being shot. I am glad I had at least one year of innocence in college. I know that somehow it will teach me and has taught me way more about life than I ever thought I would learn by the end of the year. The rest of my life won’t be conventional. That could be viewed as a bad thing, but in my mind and one thing that I am not ashamed to talk about now is how I know now more than ever that I am destined for something greater in life, something else is out there for me to accomplish and I have more motivation than ever to seek out those goals.
Hope is not some abstract notion but a gift we receive from God. It is a portion of grace and love given as we face the future. As these students learned, and was affirmed to me, that God is with us, even at our most darkest moments.
Jack Haberer has an excellent article in the Presbyterian Outlook on their presentation. Share with people who will be encourage to have hope when everything seems against it.
The quotes are from Jack's article.